For our first meeting at E3 2013, Sean and I got to play Volition’s epic next chapter of the Saints Row franchise on the Xbox 360. Sean’s got an interesting interview with one of the lead designers that’ll be going up soon, but I have the privilege of providing you my Saints Row IV impressions and some thoughts about the game in general.
The demo of Saints Row IV started off with the leader of the Saints in the White House, which was renamed “The White Crib” when he came into office. He’s brought his unique brand of governing to the Oval Office, as made apparent with politicians smoking and drinking, and tons of strippers providing entertainment in the hallways.
It’s at this time that the leader of the Saints, the President of the United States, is given various executive powers by means of making arbitrary yet funny player driven decisions that set the stage for what’s about to happen. Along the while, we are introduced to Benjamin “Motherfucking” King and Keith David as… Keith David, presumably playing as the leader’s Vice President. A press conference is about to start, with Kenzie uninterestingly trying to address a crowd of reporters prior to the President’s appearance. It’s at this time that Shaundi takes the leader to the side and tries to convince him that she and Kenzie both believe that an alien invasion is imminent and have repeatedly warned him of it in the days prior. As if by cue, the alien invasion by the Zin suddenly begins and Shaundi and Kenzie are abducted and taken to an alien ship.
What follows this is your typical Saints Row action set up: lots of great shooting and fighting. For the most part, the action portrayed in this level is very similar to what you might expect from a follow up to Saints Row: The Third; The action is fast paced and frantic, with lots of Zin to shoot at. The level culminates with a bombastic attack using an anti-air gun stealthily hidden in the bushes of the White Crib. The leader jumps into the seat of the anti-air gun and attacks a barrage of alien spacecraft, swarming the leader from all sides. Between attack waves, the leader takes the time to taunt the barrage of aliens with various crude gestures. He eventually manages to defeat his attackers, after which he jumps out, initiates a fight with Zinyak (all done in QTE), the alien leader, who easily defeats him.
The demo continues in the virtual world of Steelport, where you are given special powers that allow you to really let loose and feel like a superhero. Old habits die hard though, so I found myself early on still trying to steal cars from the hapless virtual denizens of virtual Steelport. Being that I only had 30 minutes with this demo, I decided to move on to trying to figure out what makes the leader of the Saints more than just the POTUS in this world. Of the four available special powers that were available, I was able to try out only three of them: telekinesis, fire, and ice. Using each special power was as simple as pressing the Right Trigger, and you can aim these powers just like you can aim your guns, by holding down the Left Trigger. Utilizing each special power was fun, and I was able to create a combination of scenarios. One time I was actually being chased by the Zin so I froze them and used their vehicles and bodies as frozen projectiles to slow down and out-maneuver some Zin that were chasing after me. This was when I discovered the incredible options you’re given when you’re in virtual Steelport.
Saints Row IV also offers a sense of verticality similar to The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Prototype. You can leap large distances by holding down the Jump button (A, on this version) then releasing it. While in the air, you can hold the Right Trigger to glide across the map. Holding the Left Trigger will display a reticle on the ground, and pressing the Right Trigger creates a massive ground pound that knocks over everyone in the vicinity of the impact. I used these maneuvers as my primary means to move myself through the city, which is convenient, but I’m hoping that this doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy to miss the interesting things that might happen on the ground. As with the previous game, X is used to reload and holding B will bring up the weapon wheel.
The developers encouraged us to use all the weapons in Saints Row IV, as most of them are unlocked. Like in previous games, you can purchase weapons at the local Ammi-nation stores. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to check out the weapon customization options in the demo, but the developers reiterated that it’s still in the game. My personal favorite of the new weapons is the Black Hole Gun, which opens up an aforementioned black hole and sucks everything around it for a given period of time. I tried using the highly-talked about Dubstep Gun, but it had a super slow start up that eventually had a fairly powerful attack. I suppose this is in keeping with actual Dubstep, where you have to have a defined intro then wait until the drop in order to really indulge in it.
I managed to put in time with two quests in the game while in virtual Steelport. I’m fairly certain that these weren’t really part of the main storyline, but it was interesting to see the kinds of variety that they can add just by introducing superhero mechanics into the game. One quest involved the leader running really fast through a time trial race around a section of the city, which had you collecting big green orbs that increased the amount of time you had left to complete the race. Another quest involved using the leader’s telekinesis ability and tossing people through colored rings in the air. Each color represented a particular kind of object or person that you needed to throw in it to clear the ring. In the quest I played, the pink ring had an image of Professor Genki, which required you to throw a pink Professor Genki head through it, and there were green rings where you would toss humans through it and, finally, blue rings that required you to toss vehicles through. Both quests were quite fun and certainly add a lot to the series’ lineup of amusing sidequests. Also, I thought I heard Hulk Hogan as one of the announcers for the Professor Genki quest…
From what we can tell, Saints Row IV seems to be on track to topping Saints Row: The Third‘s over the top wackiness, and I originally felt that this was going to be a difficult thing to do. Clearly, the folks over at Volition have a thing for making fun and engaging games and Saints Row IV seems to be the perfect way to exemplify this. Check out our review when the game comes out in August!